The British public have it wrong on immigrants and wrong on the EU.
According to their research by Ipsos MORI, British people think far more EU citizens live in the UK than actually do, that we pay far more money to the EU budget than is the case, and that we significantly overestimate the amount of benefits paid to EU migrants.
In a survey of 1,000 people, weighted to represent the nation’s demographic profile in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and other factors, respondents claimed that, on average, 15 per cent of the UK population are EU immigrants. That would be 10.5m people. The correct figure is 3.5m. Those who intend to vote Leave in the referendum put the figure at 20 per cent. ‘Remainers’ put the figure at 10 per cent.
One in seven people (15 per cent) believe ‘at least one Euro-myth’, including bans on barmaids showing too much cleavage, and the forcible renaming of Bombay Mix to Mumbai mix. Neither are real. 24 per cent of people believe overly bendy bananas are banned from import to the UK under EU law. (‘Malformed bananas’ are banned from export under an EU regulation.)
84 per cent of people think the UK is in the top three contributors to the EU budget. 23 per cent think it is the single biggest. In fact the UK is in fourth place, behind Germany, which pays 21 per cent, France (16 per cent) and Italy (12 per cent). The UK pays 11 per cent.
But the UK receives less money back than Germany, Italy, Spain and France, a fact not lost on 58 per cent of respondents.
David Cameron’s rebate did much to publicise the issue of child benefit payments to EU migrants, a fact that few people in the UK were even aware of. 14 per cent of people now think that 30 per cent of the UK’s Child Benefit budget is sent to children living overseas. 23 per cent of people think that 13 per cent of it does. The correct figure is 0.3 per cent. It means that almost 49 per cent of the population overestimate the figure by more than 40 times.
Only 5 per cent of people were able to name an MEP representing their area.
The EU spends 6 per cent of its budget on administration. The average guess was 27 per cent. Were this the case, the spend would be £30bn a year, instead of around £6bn.
On the impact of the referendum the general public were similarly misguided. 63 per cent think that Brexit will reduce immigration, an assurance that the Leave camp have consistently failed to give. Only 25 per cent of people think it will reduce living standards.
Professor Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe, who co-authored the study said:
“There are obviously still high levels of ignorance about the EU, which is troubling so close to the referendum. However, it is not so surprising, given the lack of accurate information provided to the public, as well as the mistruths, exaggerations, and scaremongering that have taken place during this campaign. It’s now more imperative than ever that the public can be provided with as much factual information about the EU as possible before they cast their vote”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies